Celebrating Willem’s 80th

There is always something very special about birthdays and the month of May heralds many amongst our team and our artists. We love the chance to celebrate and we hosted a birthday tea for Graham and Peter van Breda at the Chelsea Flower show, who were joined in the celebration by one of our wonderful clients who happened to be visiting our stand – a very happy coincidence.

At the same time Glenn and Marie-Claire headed across to Belgium to join a rather special family celebrating a particularly important milestone – Willem Dolphyn turned 80 on 17 May and so we took our place alongside him to help the party really go with a swing. A firm friend and important part of the gallery family meant that even on this most auspicious of occasions we firstly had business to attend to in his studio. Willem has painted for nearly 60 years in this amazing room and another important milestone will be reached when we celebrate his 30 years with Patterson’s this Autumn.

A selection of his keenly sought after miniature paintings [See below, two highlights: The Silver Platter and The Green Glass & Grapes) were collected from his easel and shelves, lovingly packed into the car ready for the return journey, they were delivered straight to an excited audience at the gala preview night of the Chelsea Flower Show on Monday for their debut.

Once work was concluded we could kick the party off. Of course the Highlander pub was the first stop. Willem was on amazing form and in this most Scottish of Belgian pubs we met up with Walter. A few little “drinkies” in and the most interesting lady was introduced to us. She had been a life model for Willem’s father, Victor then for Willem and also for Walter, and this brought home to us a strong connection to the past and to the family tradition of painting.

That evening Walter took us on an historical tour of old Antwerp, regaling us with stories, anecdotes and tales about this illustrious city. Or maybe he just took us to the oldest pub in the Grote Market, for a fine dinner at the Dock’s cafe and when we next looked it was fast approaching dawn…

That Sunday afternoon was the official birthday party which was held on BadBoot moored up on the River Schelde. A party on a bad boat with Dolphyn’s sounded very mischievous.

It turned out that it was a boat for bathing, with deck pools and there was something very fitting about this location given Willem’s seafaring past and his joy of travel around the World and particularly to the Far East.

Around 200 friends and family joined him that afternoon. It was a lovely sunny and joyous event. We chatted to Ronny and Pieter and soaked up the celebration. Never venturing far from the subject of Willem’s art, there was an amazing lecture on one of his blue and white tile paintings. Willem’s collection of these very valuable tiles is huge as he spent many years carefully salvaging as many as he could from Antwerp houses before they were lost to changing fashions and modern heating.

The day was rounded off by a family paella on the boat and after a good night’s sleep we rose early on Monday to get those precious paintings back over to the Chelsea Flower Show.


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